Friday, February 28, 2014

Love For the Father

Chuckle:  Adam said to his wife, "Eve, I wear the plants in this family!"
Quote:  "Love of God and love of created things are contrary the one to the other; two contraries cannot exist in one and the same person." --St John of the Cross, Ascent I
    "Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you(1 John 2:15 NLT).
Loving the things of our evil world is sometimes called worldliness.  When we think of worldliness, we tend to focus on behavior -- acting in a worldly or sinful way, as demonstrated by the people with whom we associate; the places we frequent; or activities we enjoy.  But loving the world begins as a condition of the heart, which manifests itself in three basic attractions: (1) lust for the gratification of our physical desires; (2) lust for what is appealing to the eye -- materialism; and (3) pride in one's importance or status.  It was in these same three areas that Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the garden; and he used the same tactics again when tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).
On the other hand, those who truly love God exhibit certain characteristics in their lives: they have unconditional love for others; they display a generous spirit; they are dedicated to humble service; they exercise self-control; and they continually seek to know God better each day through prayer and Bible study.  Their focus is on God and His kingdom.  God's values become their values.
The ways of the world are totally contrary to God and His ways, and each of us must decide daily whether to love the world or our heavenly Father.  We cannot love both -- we must choose one or the other.  Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24 NIV).
Sadly, some "Christians" try to impress others by visibly avoiding worldly attractions and pleasures while, at the same time, harboring worldly desires, attitudes, and values deep within their hearts.  We may be able to fool other people, but we can never fool our heavenly Father who knows everything about us, even the deepest and darkest secrets of our hearts.
So, it's obvious that God desires us to love Him, as revealed in the "Great Commandment -- "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37 NIV).  If we faithfully obey this commandment, our desires and love for worldly attractions will fade into our distant memory.  Let's ask ourselves: what values are most important to me?  Do my actions reflect the world's values or God's values?  Do I love God or the world?  We cannot have it both ways!!

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Joy of a Different Kind

Chuckle:  Test question to a child: "What does the word 'benign' mean?" Answer: "It is what you will be after you be eight." 
Quote: “Cultivate more joy by arranging your life so that more joy will be likely.  --Georgia Witkin  
    "You (Lord) have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and wine.  I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe" (Psalm 4:7-8 NLT).
We live in a society where people are constantly searching for that which will make them happy.  More often than not they are searching in the material world for that good job, new house, fancy car, powerful boat, etc. -- that will make their life complete and fulfilled.  The advertising media seems to have all the answers for finding happiness.
The Dictionary defines Joy as:  "The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying."  What is it in your life that gives you the greatest joy?  Is it your comfortable house, money in the bank, prestige, power over others, social status?  Before you answer, let's think together about another definition of "joy" -- joy of a different kind. 
The joy that God wants to give you is the inward sense of peace, contentment, and well-being that comes from your relationship with God as you trust Him in every aspect of your life.  The other "worldly joy" might be better called "happiness"  that results from living in pleasant and comfortable circumstances.  In other words, the kind of joy the psalmist is talking about is God-given and of a different kind, not dependent on abundance, success, or pleasure.   
Inward joy remains firm and steady as long as we trust God, but human-generated happiness is unpredictable.  It goes and comes and is dependent upon one's circumstances in life.  God-given inward joy of a different kind will help you defeat worry, discouragement, and anxiety, while temporary happiness merely masks or covers up these desperate feelings.  Happiness is like putting a Band-Aid over a wound.  The wound is still there, but is hidden.  Supernatural joy heals the wound from the inside out.  Now, which would you prefer  -- lasting inward joy or fleeting happiness?
As a Christian, your answer should be a no-brainer.  It should be the joy that only God can give.  "Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight"  (Psalm 43:4 NIV).  Jesus talks about this kind of joy in His teachings to His disciples.  "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. . . I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete"  (John 15:9,11 NIV).  If Jesus is your Savior and Lord of your life, He wants you to experience the fullness of joy that only He can give as you trust and follow Him each day of your life.

Love, Jerry & Dotse  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sins Of The Heart

Chuckle:  Father to teenage daughter:  "Did I hear the clock strike two as you came in last night?"  Daughter: "Oh, it started to strike eleven, but I stopped it so that it wouldn't wake you up."
Consider this Quote:  "The mind sins, not the body.  If there is no intention, there is no blame." --Livy
    "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened" (Psalm 16:18 NIV).  "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7 KJV).   
Let's begin by reviewing a couple definitions.  When Scripture uses the word "heart," we know it is not speaking about the physical organ beating in our chests.  No, it is referring to the very center of our being, and includes our thoughts (mind), emotions, passions, appetites, morals, will, spirit.  Our heart is the totality of our spiritual being -- who we are deep down inside.
Next, a literal translation of the word "sin" means to miss the mark, or deviate from a goal or standard that God has set for us in His Word -- to sin is to "fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  We often think of sin as describing actions that are in violation of God's moral laws -- the things we do or fail to do -- our ungodly actions.  But there is more to the word "sin" than just our actions.  Any concept of sin that does not emphasize the contradiction of God's will is incomplete.  In its simplest terms, sin is rebellion against God.
Now, let's consider this question: If you harbor ungodly thoughts, but those thoughts never come to fruition by being acted upon, have you really sinned?  The answer is an emphatic "Yes."  Since sin is most often associated with our actions, I think we do not focus enough attention on the seriousness of our sinful thoughts -- sins of the heart.  These could include lust, envy, anger, hate, greed, etc.  If we aren't on guard, our thoughts can become polluted with filthy words or images which can take root in our hearts.  The longer we allow such pollution to dwell in our hearts and minds, the more likely it becomes that we will act upon those thoughts, and grow further and further away from God.    
So, when we speak of "sins of the heart,"  we are referring to our sinful thoughts and desires, but not necessarily our actions.  Sins of the heart are very serious in the eyes of God.  Perhaps the best illustration of this truth comes from Jesus Himself.  ". . . anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart (mind)" (Matthew 5:28 NLT).  
Keeping our thoughts pure and holy requires a prayerful spirit and a special love relationship with our Lord.  If we find ourselves entertaining sinful thoughts, whether we act upon those thoughts or not, we should immediately confess those sins and ask God to forgive us, purify our minds and heart, and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9).  If left unchecked, sinful thoughts and desires can eventually lead to sinful actions, destroy our fellowship with our Lord, and turn people away from Him.  "Search me, O God, and know my heart" (Psalm 139:23a NIV).  "Create in me a pure heart, O God" (Psalm 51:10a NIV). 

Love, Jerry & Dotse